Is Tripura the new flavor of town?

Two interesting pieces on how governance is doing world of good to State of Tripura,  First in EPW by  Subhanil Chowdhury and Gorky Chakraborty and second in BS by Prof. Devesh Kapur.

First Prof. Kapur points how its CM Mr Manik Sarkar from CPI(M) is going to be the longest serving CM in India’s history:

In the increasingly high-decibel debates on the quality of leadershipon offer among the main political formations, the achievements of a modest leader in a relatively remote part of India, Manik Sarkar, the chief minister of Tripura since 1998, might have gone unnoticed. With his overwhelming victory in the 2013 elections (50 of the Assembly’s 60 seats, more than half the vote share and nearly 92 per cent turnout – the highest in India), he is likely to emerge as one of the longest-serving chief ministers of India. 

The story is remarkable not just because the electoral fortunes of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), have flagged in the party’s other two bastions (Kerala and West Bengal), but even more given the grip of the ethnic divide (between tribals and Bengali immigrants) and a vicious insurgency that gripped the state for many years. Tripura’s literacy rate now rivals – and, by some estimates, exceeds – Kerala’s and, despite the state’s isolation and the virtual absence of industry, it has clocked reasonable economic gains based on a significant agricultural innovation: a shift to a lucrative cash crop, rubber. The insurgency has virtually ceased, a testimony to the sensitive handling of the concerns of the tribal population – which offers instructive lessons to states like Chhattisgarh. 

Manik Sarkar is an anomaly in Indian politics. Austere and by all accounts scrupulously honest, his probity and humility are rare, representing the best of the old – and vanishing – Left. His success raises the question: why has the CPI(M) done so poorly if inequality is increasing, poverty is widespread and scams are everywhere? What does it say about the party’s leadership that, despite being given such “hospitable” structural conditions, it has been doing so dismall

In EPW, the authors discuss how Tripura has managed to increase its literacy levels with governance, people participation and political will:

As the public discourse today scrutinises the “development model” of the state of Gujarat ever so furiously, a significant milestone achieved by a small state in the much ignored North-East curiously has been given little coverage to. Tripura has become the most literate state in the country overtaking Kerala (itself, the owner of another “model” and a success story in social development). Manik Sarkar, the Chief Minister of Tripura in a press conference stated that as on date the literacy rate in the state was 94.65%. He also pointed out that Tripura is still short of attaining full literacy which the government will try and achieve soon (The Hindu, 9 September 2013). This achievement of Tripura shows how initiatives at the level of governance, peoples’ participation and political will can ensure education for all.

What led to rise in lit levels:

What explains this tremendous success of Tripura in improving the literacy rate over the years?  A part of the answer lies in the higher share of resources that the government has spent on education. Between 2000-01 and 2011-12, on an average 17.2% of total expenditure has been spent on education in the state. The average spending on education during the same period in the other north-eastern states has been 14.4% with only Assam spending more than Tripura as a percentage of total expenditure.[5]

In 1998, the number of schools in Tripura was 3123 which has increased to 4789 in 2013. Out of these 2415 are primary schools and 1237 are upper primary schools.[6] Additionally, Tripura has improved the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) significantly. As per government reports, during 2011-12, 9906 ICDS centres were fully operational in the state where 377016 children in the age group 0-6 years were enrolled.[7] This comprised 82.31% of the total children in this age group in the state. The other indicators of school infrastructure are shown in Table 4.

Backed by strong political will:

It is not enough to spend more on education and create physical infrastructure to ensure education for all. Tripura provides a fine example of how administrative and political initiatives involving the people can ensure that all the children are sent to school. There are various tiers of these initiatives in Tripura.

Firstly, the government has tried to ensure that all children who attend Anganwadis are admitted to the primary schools in their locality. In January 2011, for example, Anganwadi workers ensured that 45888 children of 6 years of age are enrolled in formal primary schools.[9]

Secondly, the school education department of the state has started a special enrolment drive (Vidyalaya Chalo Abhiyan or Go to School Campaign) to ensure that no children are left out of school. As a part of this drive, government officials along with local elected representative conduct surveys to see whether any child is left out of regular schooling. If they find anyone, it is ensured that they are enrolled in the nearest school.[10] 

Thirdly, for those children who are physically challenged, arrangements have been made for education at home.

Fourthly, the state government has implemented the Mid-day Meal Scheme sincerely in order to ensure that children get nutritious food in the schools. 

 A related and significant development that coincides with the increases in development indicators is the reduction in insurgency related violence in the state since the turn of the century. The following chart shows the decline in deaths due to terrorist activities in the state.

However. all is not well with quality of edu:

Beyond enrolment alone, apropos the quality of education and in qualitative learning though, Tripura has some distance to cover.The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, reports that 20% of children in rural Tripura studying in Class I could not read alphabets properly while 29.8% of children in Class III could read words but not a text of Class I. The ASER report also says that the reading skills of the students improved consistently since 2009 to 2011 but witnessed a slight fall in 2012. The other problematic issue in Tripura is the large scale proliferation of private tuitions. It is estimated by ASER 2012 that 70.2% of children between Class I-VIII take private tuitions in rural areas. Firstly, this indicates that the parents or the students are not satisfied with the quality of teaching imparted to them in the schools. Secondly, this also entails an additional expenditure on the family. More importantly, with private tuition becoming the norm, the quality of school education will get adversely affected.Interventions are required to deal with these problems. The significant achievements of Tripura on literacy will be further consolidated and expanded if the government addresses these problems earnestly.

The last bit shows hoe Tripura’s political history has always understood the importance of education. This is something Acemoglu/Robinson will be really interested to read..

It is all about politics at the end of the day..

One Response to “Is Tripura the new flavor of town?”

  1. yayaver Says:

    This is something Acemoglu/Robinson will be really interested to read.. Nice pointer to end a good post !

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